Saturday 19 October 2019

Geraint Thomas sends out statement to Tour de France rivals on stage six, Dan Martin into the top 20 overall

Britain's Geraint Thomas crosses the finish line of the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 160 kilometers (100 miles) with start in Mulhouse and finish in La Planche des Belles Filles, France, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Britain's Geraint Thomas crosses the finish line of the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 160 kilometers (100 miles) with start in Mulhouse and finish in La Planche des Belles Filles, France, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Dylan Teuns won stage six of the Tour de France from the breakaway as Giulio Ciccone snatched the yellow jersey off Julian Alaphilippe on the brutal slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles.

Bahrain-Merida's Teuns and Trek-Segafredo's Ciccone were the last survivors of a 14-man breakaway on the 160.5km stage from Mulhouse, and were both rewarded after a painful slog up gradients reaching 24 per cent.

Behind, Geraint Thomas showed there is plenty of life in his title defence as he put in a late dig to distance several GC contenders, including his Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal, and take fourth place on the day.

That meant Thomas' much-discussed five-second deficit to Bernal is now a four-second advantage, with the Welshman moving up to fifth place on the much-changed general classification.

Ciccone leads by six seconds from Deceuninck-Quick Step's Alaphilippe, with Teuns third, 32 seconds down.

Jumbo-Visma's George Bennett slots into third place, two seconds ahead of Thomas who is 49 seconds off yellow.

Ireland's Dan Martin jumped from 35th in the GC to 18th after finishing 14th on the stage, just under two minutes behind Teuns.

Nicolas Roche lost more than 16 minutes on the yellow jersey today, dropping from 19th to 51st overall.

Many had expected the explosive young Bernal to put more time into Thomas on a climb which the defending champion himself admitted did not suit him - the final gradients of over 20 per cent far more favourable to his Colombian team-mate.

But when Alaphilippe - desperate to keep the yellow jersey he earned on stage three - attacked from the group of favourites inside the final kilometre, it was Thomas who set off after him and rounded the Frenchman on the last bend.

Given the question marks over his form that have followed Thomas all week, this was a major statement of intent.

Teuns can celebrate a first career Tour de France stage win, and a memorable one at that.

The original 14-man breakaway was allowed a lead that reached eight-and-a-half minutes on the climb of the Ballon d'Alsace in the middle of the stage, though the group fragmented on the penultimate climb, the Col des Chevreres.

Teuns and Ciccone were among four riders who began the final climb with an advantage of four minutes, but soon left Lotto-Soudal's Tim Wellens and Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Xandro Meurisse behind.

They hit the final kilometre of the climb, the new addition to the route, together but Teuns had the final kick needed to take the stage win.

Ciccone, the 24-year-old Italian who announced his talents with a stage win and the mountains classification in the Giro d'Italia in May, faded at the last but had just enough to snatch yellow from the hard-charging Alaphilippe.

In the Tour's previous three visits to this mountain the man wearing yellow at the top wore it in Paris, but Thomas' late dig suggests this year's edition has many more twists to come.

Thomas said: "I was feeling good but I was unsure. I thought the steep climbs weren't my cup of tea. I was expecting others - (Nairo) Quintana, Egan, (Adam) Yates - would jump up there. It was a decent day in the end.

"It is one of those climbs where you have to be patient. When Alaphilippe went clear at 800 (metres to go), quite early, I had the confidence to let him go and ride my own tempo and drive it all the way to the line from 350. I was starting to blow through. It is decent."

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